Our History and Aims

On 26th September 1936, at the suggestion of Fred Melville, a group of eminent philatelists met at the offices of Robson Lowe. By a unanimous decision The Postal History Society was formed and a small committee appointed to draw up the rules.

The objects of the Society were, and remain, the promotion and encouragement of the study of postal communications, local, national and international, to publish a journal for members and other works relating to postal history.

The inaugural meeting was held on the 24th October 1936 when Mr. Charles Clear, of the Public Relations Department of the GPO, delivered a paper entitled "John Loudon McAdam and the Post Office".

At the end of the first year the membership roll stood at 61. Initially meetings were held approximately monthly in London but soon one-day and weekend meetings were organised in towns such as Bath, Bournemouth and Cheltenham. Study Groups were set up each under a specialist, well respected in their field of postal history.

Recently, Hugh Feldman has edited and Graham Mark has authored a Souvenir Book to mark the Society's 75th Anniversary. The Book contains much fascinating detail of the Society's history and can be read on line here

Today the membership numbers 315 of whom 75 are overseas members. All day meetings are held at a variety of locations around the UK and a weekend conference is held annually in October. A quarterly journal, Postal History, usually 32 x A4 pages with colour illustrations, publishes members' articles on the many aspects of postal history and also includes book reviews as well as society news.

The Council of the Society actively seeks papers, monographs and books for publication with twenty titles currently in print and available from the Publications Officer.

Chester Cross Post Cover

1756 letter from Chester to Petton endorsed "X post", charged 3d and sent via the Bristol to Chester cross post

Valparaiso to Hamburg via Panama

This unpaid wrapper posted in Valparaiso dated 5th September 1873 will have travelled up the west coast of South America on a Pacific Steam Navigational Company ship to Panama. There it crossed the Isthmus on the American owned railway to Colon and loaded onto R.M.S. Elbe of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. It departed on the 21st September arriving Plymouth on the 23rd October and arriving in London the same day where a charge mark of 1/5d was struck showing the amount due to the British Post Office. On arriving in Hamburg on the 25th October a charge of 19 ½ silver groschen was raised as shown in blue crayon

Early Machine Cancellations – Hoster Trials 1882-93

Trials started with the Post Office in 1882 on 2 machines submitted by Mr. Albert Hoster, which are thought to be a development of the earlier tested Azemar prototypes. Hoster insisted they offered faster processing with a high degree of accuracy. Despite various rejections by the Post Office Circulation Department the trials continued for 11 years. The final result was that they finished up life stamping the reverse of the cover as a receiving stamp, normally in red. The above type was used at Charing Cross branch in use between 16th October 1885 until 7th December 1887

Posted in Advance for Christmas

A postcard cancelled by the 'Christmas Cross' of Knutsford, Cheshire dated 1906. This scheme was introduced in 1902 and ran until 1909 with a variety of towns participating. During the latter years it was largely based in the North West of England from the regional post offices of Manchester and Liverpool. The idea behind it was that Christmas postcards and letters could be handed into a main post office around the 17th- 22nd December. Here they were cancelled with the special cachet and given a guaranteed delivery on Christmas Day. This gave the Post Office an opportunity to sort these early posted items and help relieve some of the enormous pressure associated with the increased Christmas mail

Postage due cover

A 1964 underpaid cover illustrating the use of French and Italian postage due stamps. A French postage stamp was also used to pay part of the tax

Sudan Airmail

It is quite remarkable what lengths people will and have gone to produce a cover. This is a first day cancellation dated 5th February 1931 struck in Khartoum and sent by ship to Alexandra with a Shellal-Halfa T.P.O. dated the 18th February on the reverse. Put on a plane to the UK where, what is highly probable, a grace-and-favour hand-stamp on a ½d green, date stamped 25th September, has been applied to confirm receipt. This would help establish that the letter had been carried by airmail. Much of this supposition is based on the known fact that the addressee was a stamp dealer. However it does illustrate the point that at times it is as well to have a guess in figuring out a cover

75th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet

The Postal History Society was formed as the first specialised Society of its kind when a group of eminent enthusiasts gathered in what was no doubt a smoke-filled room at 96 Regent Street, London, on Saturday 24th October 1936. Among the names to conjure with from the annals of the past are Fred Melville, Robson Lowe, Forster Bond and Samuel Graveson, all of whom feature on many library shelves to this day.